Skill Check: Box Jumps

Every day I see people nail skills during WODs that seem impossible to me. Knees to elbows? I can barely get them waist level when hanging from the bar, no matter how hard I try. Toes to bar? Ha. Ha. Ha.  And you can just shut up about the handstand push ups.

For each skill there’s a way to scale until you can work your way up to the prescribed movement. For the most part, I feel no frustration scaling because I know I’ll get there when I get there.

But one incomplete skill was driving me crazy since I started CrossFit.

The box jump.

The way to scale a box jump is to simply step up on the box, straighten up at the top, and step back down. Alternate legs, repeat. Same range of movement, but it won’t work your fast twitch muscles (great for explosiveness and good hip flexion).

But let’s be honest, the inferior physical benefit wasn’t what bugged me. Most frustrating was how I let the boxes intimidate me.

It was purely mental, starting on my first day trying them. “I think I’m doing it wrong,” I told my coach as I repeatedly clomped up on the smallest 18” box. “That’s because you are,” he said. “You’re hesitating so your feet are landing separately.”

Ah. Makes sense. To keep both feet parallel and land simultaneously, softly as possible, you can’t hesitate. You need to believe you can do it as you drop down and explode. No belief, no explosion, no landing the top of the box correctly.

Try as I might, I felt a serious hesitation every time I confronted a box. On consulting friends and internet, it didn’t seem uncommon. There’s the fear of slipping and scraping a stitch-worthy amount of skin off your shin. Or losing control at the top and toppling face first over it. And if your brain doesn’t conjure up a good enough horrorshow, the boxes themselves bear witness, autographed by every fallen CrossFitter who’s bit it on them.

After a few months of wobbly, unsuccessful attempts pre-WOD, I was determined to win this battle. No more step ups! My friend B and I hit up the open gym with the plan to use the method that had worked for her. We stacked a few 25# plates and would add another each time I made a couple successful jumps. At those approachable heights, I was confident I could clear the plates and not bite it, and I did.

In a matter of minutes we had a sizeable stack going. It was looking high, but the rounded corners of the plates seemed so much softer and less mean than the boxes, so I found the nerve to keep going. The progressive build of my stack had made it mentally doable, but at a certain point I could sense it approaching nearly half my height, and a few false starts started creeping in here and there.

As I kept practicing B dragged over the 20” box so we could compare. My plate pile was at least an inch higher. What? My goal had only been 18”. I hadn’t even noticed. No time for celebrating. This signaled the Real Test. Trying this shit on the actual box.

My legs were warm at this point and the motion was drilled into my head. So I just went up to it and… did it. Landed both feet right on top. I did another. And then I yelled over to B to come look. I nailed them, some with less than perfect form than others (case in point: the photo in this post) and some with residual hesitation. But for the majority, I was DOING THEM.

It was an amazing moment. It made all those other impossible skills suddenly seem doable with enough time, practice and confidence. Except maybe those hand stand push ups…